Ismael and his granddaughter, Leticia
To Ismael Ramiro Ochoa Calderon, the year revolves around the lifespan of his corn. His milpas, or maize plots, are a distinctive feature of La Esperanza, a small outlying neighborhood of Quetzaltenango. Every fall, Ismael and his family gather to harvest, package, and sell his crop at market. However, this scene of agricultural livelihood has not always been easy, nor the most accessible.
“I used to live far away from my corn fields. It was very difficult,” Ismael tells us. “My family also needs to sell gas for a living. So they would have to travel all the way down that hill to get people their gas tanks.” He points up to a steep, rocky hillside that resides behind the house. “Before, at the old house, a lot of water would get into between the cracks of the roof. The walls and floor were warped, and our clothes would be ruined.”
It was that hill that motivated Ismael to build a new life for his family. Luis, Ismael’s brother, told Ismael about Habitat and how the organization provided affordable, sustainable housing opportunities to deserving families such as his own. Ismael decided to apply on a whim, and fifteen days later, he was approved for a house that would rest on a small plot of land next to his corn crop. Construction began in July and ended in September. Now, Ismael, his daughter Brenda, and his granddaughter, Leticia, live comfortably in a place that protects them from the elements.
The new house is nothing like the old one. “There is so much space and light. We are so content to have this new house; there have been no problems.” Ismael smiles as he walks through the kitchen and living room. He points out the window to a row of buildings in the distance. “We’re closer to town and the fields, and we have better access to the market trucks that pass through the neighborhood.”
There is no doubt that Ismael and his family will thrive in their new environment.